Paradise

The washed-up shrimp

cooked pink in the hot Gulf

shallows, where we waded

despite the tide’s toxicity to

praise the glorious shoals

of the jubilee with oxygen,

flounder, and crab. Toes,

clam dives, kelp rope slung

around her abdomen and left

to dry. Tan or hide me as

the case may descry, but

with a cloud’s duration. The

jouissance of the living unreal.

Yet another thing that he

could, in the end, control.

The concept of syntax does

not, however, control for

the system it sets into being,

or for that system’s rampant

discovery. Should a successful

imperative declare itself.

A borrowed cadence. The rainbow

by which she knows she loves

is not reliable. The language

by which she loves, foregone

for broke.

***

Paradise

The archetypal story has

a porridge core. I’m studying

seismicity by starlight, a little

tremor in my sleight-of-hand.

Myth commits a systematic

falsehood we breathe with,

trying not to die. When the

water’s low-to-dangerous,

tune your voice up to hail

the blaze, or tune it down

to affirm the traditional

spectrum. You choose your

ledge, but how you learned

to say disastrous returns you to

the elements of chance.

Like current-bored bodies,

like high mountain misogyny,

like an artificial fire to spite

the burn ban vigilantes.

Let’s give up the ghost

of this minor misshapen

love before the predictable

avalanche makes mosaic of

the entire denouement

to the laugh track of the

jobless working class.

***

Paradise

Weather splits up its story,

splits the pier. Tides

throughout the Holocene

vivid and flush, viewed as

fragile but whole. How, from

that depth, at that frequency,

with such cast, such velocity,

and at that exact distance,

could I slide into foundations

meant to frame you and

the starfield in passing. I lay

my head by the blooming

chrysanthemum. Rainstorms,

an early pleasure. A lavender

dress in a lavender field,

marriage proximal and past

the towering hemlocks,

halfway over the actual hill.

***

Andy Stallings lives in Deerfield, MA, where he teaches English at Deerfield Academy. His second collection with Rescue Press, Paradise, will come out in spring 2018. He has four young children, and coaches cross country and track.